Developers suggest public-private partnership on affordable housing

The MDA said it would consider a public-private partnership guaranteeing €400- a-month apartments

The Malta Developers Association (MDA) has said it would be willing to enter into a public-private partnership with the government in order to provide citizens with more affordable housing.

Speaking during a pre-budget meeting with government officials at Castille, MDA president Sandro Chetcuti said that such an agreement could help guarantee accommodation for those struggling to make ends meet that would not exceed €400 a month.

Chetcuti, thanked the Prime Minister for Malta’s economic improvement, 6% of which, he said, could be directly attributed to the construction industry. Chetcuti insisted that “almost everyone in Malta owns their own property. People are still investing in property, eventually selling it and renting it. Even most hypothecs today have been settled with banks.”

“Anyone who has been prudent over the years is living a better life today,” he said.

This was echoed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who said that despite the fact that property in Malta was always discussed in a negative light, the truth was that Malta had one of the highest rates of home-ownership in the world. Over 80% of Maltese citizens own their own home.

He also said that anyone “who disagrees with property being sustainable should refer to the KMPG report on the Construction Industry and the Property Market that suggested otherwise.”

Muscat mentioned that despite this, 20% of people in Malta were not in a position to buy property due to a lack of funds and other debilitating factors.

Chetcuti told the Prime Minister that MDA felt responsible for helping the less fortunate, the 20% who cannot yet afford their own property.

He said that MDA hoped to see further incentives for first time buyers in the upcoming budget. “Not everyone has a 10% deposit in hand to take out a home loan. People want an apartment with amenities: lifts, modernity, good lighting.”

To make this possible, he said, the MDA was proposing that future home owners could strike deals with property vendors where the vendors themselves act as guarantors.

20% increase in minimum wage

MDA said that it also wants to increase the minimum wage of construction workers by 20%, another incentive that would guarantee good workmanship, but only if the said construction workers have a skill card with which to prove their diligence in a bid to protect citizens from dangerous or half-hearted construction.  

MDA said it recognised and appreciated the government’s building and maintenance of new roads across the country. “This is sustainable development, and while there were a few instances of inconvenience, these were understandable. You cannot cook up a good dish without making a little mess in the kitchen,” Chetcuti said.

The Prime Minister thanked the Malta Developers Association for the proposals brought forward and said that he welcomed the opportunity to discuss them further. “These are positive proposals. This is an NGO leading by example.”

Muscat likened the running of the country to the management of a corporation. He made reference to the surplus that the government would announce during the next budget on 21 October. “This is how sustainable we are being,” Muscat said. “We will announce another surplus next month. It wasn’t a singular occasion. What we are spending we are getting back through economic improvement and the construction industry has contributed significantly to this.”

Muscat said that the White Paper on rental market that would be released by the end of the year should also help in this regard since it would protect the rights of tenants and landlords. Owners of abandoned properties will take advantage of a scheme that would offer financial assistance of up to €25,000 to restore their properties so eventually they’d be employed for social housing at an affordable rate.

Muscat said that he wants to see complete freedom for the property market. “Every landlord who rents needs to have his rent registered however,” he said. “There are many that are still not registered. We require a strong basis of structure so we can seriously start helping those who require genuine assistance in this sector.”

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